One of the great frustrations CMO’s and executives express about social media is the inability to track its impact on the bottom line. Sure, you can easily measure your Facebook “Likes,” Twitter “follows” and LinkedIn connections. You can monitor your Google+ Circles and even Pinterest activity. But what does all that matter if it’s not moving the needle on your business growth?
Many companies set random measurements, such as growth in Likes, Follows, and Connections to see how they are doing. Unfortunately, arbitrary metrics like a “25% increase” in Twitter followers don’t really tell you whether you are achieving your strategic goals.
Growth metrics also don’t capture the fact that much of the social media audience is transient. Friends and followers come and go depending on where they are in the buying cycle. For example, if you’re a recruiting firm, people will follow when they are looking for a job, then unfollow you later, once they find one. This means your net gains in followers will be slower than you might expect.
How’s Your Temperature?
Think of metrics like the number of friends or followers as indicators of trends in your social media performance. Use them to get a quick read on how you’re doing, just like your doctor checks your pulse and blood pressure when you go for a checkup. These metrics won’t give you a clear diagnosis of any issues, but if there’s a big change from one month to the next (up or down) you’ll want to know why.
Maybe a superstar in your industry retweeted one of your tweets or commented on a blog post, bringing you a big jump in traffic. Or perhaps an employee shared something that didn’t sit well with your audience, and you lost a few fans. A regular social media temperature check will let you spot these things quickly, and respond appropriately.
What Counts? Results.
Results are what matters the most when it comes to making social media work for business. While more difficult to measure than follower counts, the payoff from your hard work is a more accurate view of the impact of your efforts.
To understand the performance of your social media programs, it’s much better to monitor things like overall engagement and leads generated through social media. This can be a little harder to track, but gives you a much better picture of how your efforts are contributing to the business.
When you’re ready to take your social media measurement to the next level, look at measurements like these:
Engagement – how much interaction happens between your company and its followers? Do people comment on your blog posts, share articles you post on LinkedIn and respond to questions you pose on Twitter?
Reach - look beyond your audience to your audience’s audience. If you have influential followers, you’ll gain more visibility when they comment and share your content with their audience.
Conversions – How do your online connections translate into measurable business opportunities? Does social media generate leads, website visits, product subscriptions or downloads? Define conversion on your own terms, as long as the focus is on taking action towards a sale.
Sentiment – A reflection of your online reputation, sentiment will tell you if the buzz about your business is positive, neutral or negative. It doesn’t all need to be rosy, but neutral to favorable should be the baseline.
While you might be tempted to try to get this data manually, it can take several hours a month to do manual social media reporting. Instead, try the reports available in your social media management platform. Services like Roost, HootSuite and SproutSocial offer affordable and easy to use reporting. For more intensive reporting needs, check out Radian 6, Sysomos or UberVU.
Joellyn “Joey” Sargent is principal of BrandSprout LLC, an Atlanta-based strategic marketing and management consulting firm. Joey brings fresh perspectives to challenging business issues, helping her clients succeed by building brand awareness, engaging customers and increasing market share.
A passionate advocate of entrepreneurship, Joey has founded 3 companies, was a key executive with two start-ups and has worked for Fortune 500 companies, including UPS and BellSouth (now AT&T). With global leadership experience in branding, strategy, and communications, Joey advises business owners on strategies for dramatic growth, building high-performing marketing teams and leveraging technology for maximum impact.